Emma Clark: Breaking the staff menopause taboo

All women will experience the menopause at some point during their life. It can also impact both trans and non-binary people who may not identify as female. Most of those who experience the menopause will do so between the ages of 45 and 55, and between 75% and 80% of those experiencing symptoms are in work. Symptoms can include sleeplessness, hot flushes, memory loss, poor concentration, headaches, muscle and joint pains, depression and anxiety.

A new initiative called the Menopause Workplace Pledge, set up by the Wellbeing of Women, commits employers to make their organisation a supportive and understanding place for employees going through the menopause, and to take positive actions to alleviate the challenges faced by employees.

We await the government’s response to the feedback provided by various bodies as part of its menopause and the workplace inquiry. This will assist the government in determining what, if any, legislation is needed to tackle this growing issue.

However, rather than relying on government policy to mandate the future on this topic, it is clear that employers can voluntarily make a great deal of progress on this key issue. For instance, as well as signing up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge, employers might look to consider drafting a standalone menopause policy and adapting current equal opportunities, flexible working and sickness absence policies.

Employers should bring their policies to life through training and discussion. They can start educating their staff as part of training programmes and expressly reference the menopause in diversity and equality training sessions. The menopause needs to become common language in the workplace.

Employers can also ensure that sickness absence tracking systems record time off for menopause-related symptoms separately, so it does not impact on performance management processes or impact selection for redundancy. In addition, they can ask their company doctors/occupational health to attend courses on the menopause to ensure they are equipped to support the workforce.

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We all have a role to play to ensure the menopause does not result in employees leaving the workforce.

Emma Clark is a partner at law firm Keystone Law